Bernanke Challenges Congress to Make “Difficult Choices”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke used this years Economic Symposium to challenge Fed policymakers to “make the difficult choices that are necessary to put the country’s fiscal house in order”. Bernanke also repeated last year’s message that despite record low interest rates and yields on Treasuries, the Fed still has policy tools at its disposal to stimulate the economy.

Unlike last year’s gathering however, Bernanke did not make any specific announcement on the timing of any actions the Fed may have in mind. The only commitment from Bernanke is to say that September’s policy meeting would be extended by a day to allow a “fuller discussion” of the state of the economy.

QEIII On Hold?

In the days leading up to the symposium there was much conjecture on the possibility that the Fed would announce another round of quantitative easing. Bernanke made no mention of kicking off a third program of bond buying to inject more liquidity into the banking system but this option likely remains a matter to be discussed at next month’s meeting.

[mserve id=”Central_Bank_FED_Bernanke.jpg” align=”left” width=”400″ caption=”Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke” alt=”US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bermanke Fed” title=”Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke”]

Investors were no doubt disappointed that today’s address offered no official confirmation of further spending. As a result, markets responded negatively in the aftermath of Bernanke’s comments but by mid-afternoon both the Dow and the Nasdaq were back in positive territory.

Bernanke Challenges Policymakers

In a surprising move, Bernanke directed a considerable part of his speech to the nation’s policymakers including a strong indictment of how Congress dealt with the recent credit ceiling debate.

In what can only be described as a rebuke to Congress, Bernanke urged federal legislators to take the problems facing the economy more seriously. Bernanke practically implored lawmakers to set aside the politics and to act now “to put in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term”.

“The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well,” declared Bernanke. “Similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses.”

This is certainly the strongest language to date for the Fed Chairman and may possibly underscore a growing sense of desperation at the Federal Reserve. It is fine for Bernanke to tout the Fed’s policy tools but these have been tried with limited success. Bernanke now appears to be handing the ball to the fiscal policymakers.

This article is for general information purposes only. It is not investment advice or a solution to buy or sell securities. Opinions are the authors; not necessarily that of OANDA Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. You could lose all of your deposited funds.